On MSNBC’s “Politics Nation” program yesterday, host Al Sharpton his guests Jonathan Capehart of the Washington Post and syndicated columnist Bob Franken discussed Newt Gingrich in the videotaped segment above. After the panel viewed some recent clips of Gingrich speaking in his usual hyperbolic manner, Franken says that Gingrich “is the master of certain key words.” Franken mentions that some of Gingrich’s remarks were at a forum hosted by “Frank Luntz, who is the wordsmith of the Republican Party.” Franken goes on to say that:
He [Luntz] knows, and Newt knows, that if he says words like ‘Islamist’ and ‘Socialist’ and ‘radical’ and ‘reactionary,’ people aren’t going to really care. His followers, they used to call them ‘dittoheads’ when we were talking about Rush Limbaugh, the followers aren’t going to really listen to the substance of what he says. He knows that he can push buttons. That used to be called ‘demagoguery.’
Franken’s description of Gingrich’s use of words is a perfect encapsulation of the Republicans’ political strategy: their key to success isn’t to put forth the best ideas and then convince voters to vote for them, it’s merely to sprinkle their remarks with the right magic words (focus-group tested in advance by the likes of Frank Luntz), causing a Pavlovian emotional response, i.e., “pushing buttons”, among Republican voters. Franken calls this “demagoguery.” A simpler description would be “brainwashing”. And a more intellectually and morally bankrupt strategy is difficult to imagine.